Crown Prosecution Service: Covid-19

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 9th July 2020.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the CPS during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Conservative, Hyndburn

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the CPS during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Attorney-General

First, I thank the CPS for its hard work during this difficult time. It has had to adapt to significant changes to its normal working practices, and despite the challenges has maintained a high quality of service within our criminal justice system and for victims. The inspectorate report published on 30 June sets out an analysis of its response to the pandemic. It commends the organisation’s digital capability, strategic planning and foresight in upgrading its capabilities, which meant that prosecutors were able to continue their vital work with minimum disruption. I was very pleased to virtually visit the CPS in the south-west, where I was able to see at first hand the impressive way in which it has transitioned to this new way of working.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What progress has the Crown Prosecution Service made in its recruitment campaigns during the covid-19 pandemic?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Attorney-General

Last week, I chaired the CPS ministerial board, at which I was pleased to hear that the CPS’s recruitment programme has continued at pace throughout the pandemic, utilising digital tools, including video interviews. The CPS is recruiting 390 new staff as a result of the Government’s £85 million investment in it. Two hundred and twenty-five lawyers have started and a further 76 have been offered roles and will be starting in the near future. The most recent campaign closed on 17 June and resulted in a record number of applications—901.

Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Conservative, Hyndburn

Can the Attorney General tell the House how many members of the CPS were off sick due to covid-19?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Attorney-General

The CPS has been monitoring the absence level of both lawyer and support staff throughout the pandemic. Where necessary, the CPS has virtually redeployed staff between different CPS areas to ensure that workloads were effectively managed. Court closures and the significant reduction in court sittings resulted in the release of some staff to undertake different tasks and work. This increased the amount of legal and administrative resources available for casework.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Solicitor General

West Midlands police recorded over 4,000 cases of domestic violence in the first month of lockdown, yet only 3% of those cases have resulted in criminal charges. Between 2015 and 2019, despite domestic violence cases rising by 77%, charging fell by 18% and convictions by 20%. I ask the Attorney General again: how many victims of sexual violence are still waiting for their case to get to court, and what is she doing to ensure that domestic abuse does not go unpunished?

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman The Attorney-General

It is essential that perpetrators, victims and their families know and understand that the criminal justice system remains open and operational during the covid outbreak, and the CPS and I are working closely with colleagues across Government and the criminal justice system to ensure that those horrendous offences continue to be brought to justice. Priority must be given to the most serious cases to make sure that dangerous offenders are dealt with quickly. That is why the CPS has worked with police colleagues to introduce an interim charging protocol with clear guidance on its use. All non-custody domestic abuse cases were categorised as high priority and will be dealt with accordingly.